Saturday, January 23, 2010

Muslim-Jews lost in the no-man's-land of identity

Point of No Return
21 January '10
Posted before Shabbat

A new comedy film called The Infidel is creating a sensation in the British press: it is about a British Muslim who, in a matter of minutes, discovers he was adopted and that he was born Jewish. Why is the film considered so controversial, even outrageous? In the West, Jews and Muslims are seen as polar opposites, eternal adversaries. To put them both together in the same script seems guaranteed to offend members of both religions.

In fact a Muslim who discovers he's a Jew is not as outlandish as it sounds. There is the case of the Jew from Kuwait. The Jewish girl brought up by her Muslim neighbours after her family abandoned her in their chaotic exodus from Egypt. The Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi's Jewish grandmother makes him a Halachic Jew. Mixed families are known to live in Kurdistan, Egypt and Lebanon. Thousands of Muslim Yemenis are dimly aware of their Jewish roots. One Jewish convert was even President of North Yemen.

Traditionally, the two communities kept apart in the Middle East, and intermarriage has always been rare. But the mass flight Jews from Arab countries has left behind a number of Muslim-Jews in the no-man's land of identity.

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